Inside a sky-blue painted courtyard in a Cockeysville strip mall, a group of preschool and elementary school aged children gathered around a keyboard Friday afternoon and danced endlessly to a set of ubiquitous pop songs.
Friday's activities marked the end of the Drool of Rock childcare center's weeklong summer camp session, but the energy is something owner Jenn Lawson said would be the center's distinguishing trait when it's first year of childcare begins later this month.
Located in the Cranbrook Shopping Center, Lawson's Drool of Rock aims to marry the typical tenets of early childhood learning with a regular dose of song and dance from a rotating cast of local musicians.
"I'm not big on the whole daycare thing, and I didn't want to open something that was cheesy or like anything else that was available, so we decided to start this really cool music and art program," Lawson, 33, said. "We just try to expose them to as much art and music as we can. We're not a rock and roll center. We're not teaching them to play. We just have all different types of musicians and instructors come in to work with them daily at the end of the day."
The inspiration came from Pat Hundley, a kindergarten teacher at Edgemere Elementary, who taught Lawson's siblings at Stoneleigh Elementary.
"He is a musician, and he would write songs for the children and incorporate songs into his class all the time, and the parents would go crazy," Lawson, a lifelong Towson resident who lives in Rodgers Forge, said. "Every kid wanted to be in his class, and every parent wanted their kids to be in his class. He was just so inspiring.
"I was thinking it'd be cool if we could build a center where everyone had Pat Hundley," she said.
Lawson, a pianist and painter who in addition to running a home daycare prior to opening Drool of Rock had a rock-themed children's clothing line, insists that parents who enroll won't be sending their kids off to become musicians.
"It's not all music," she said. "We also have a really awesome preschool curriculum, and care a whole lot about that."
Lawson said instruction about colors, letters, shapes and calendar time are staples of the preschool schedule, but what sets Drool of Rock apart is the emphasis on art and music.
She said other centers likely schedule free play at the end of each day, but performers join the students at Drool of Rock to engage the children in different activites.
The space Lawson chose in Cranbrook Shopping Center has been outfitted to match the center's mission. While other spaces Lawson looked at scoffed at the idea of painting the outside of the building, Lawson's landlord let her paint the exterior and removed the roof from a portion of the space to create an outdoor courtyard for a play area.
The courtyard, where the daily concerts and performances are held when the weather is nice, is painted sky blue with rainbow trees brush-stroked over the walls. Interior hallways feature Bob Dylan song lyrics and Elvis quotes painted over a shade of purple last seen on Barney the dinosaur.
"Everything that we wanted to build or create or be able to do with kids we were watching in my home, we were able to do with this place," Lawson said.
Drool of Rock opened in April and is still accepting applications for the upcoming year. Throughout the summer, the staff has offered a series of one-week camps for children aged 2 to 10, which run through the week of Aug. 19.
Lisa Davis, a Roland Park resident who previously sent her children to Lawson's home day care, said her children have loved the camp.
"On Saturdays and Sundays when we don't have camp, Karsten is disappointed," she said of her 4-year-old son, who was joined at the camp last week by his sister, Eliza. "They love coming out here."